Advice on Making a Change
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  • Oy, sorry, we've seen this story here before, too many times.

    I believe, for me, that if one has the ability to make music in the Mass, one has the obligation, just because there are so few qualified Catholic musicians. This shouldn't be pre-Purgatory, but it often is. If you can get involved with music at the Ordinariate place, even as a volunteer, that would be fine, but I wouldn't consider pew-sitting to be an option. YMMV.

    Duty? We have a tendency to think that we're too important, and that music is too important. Maybe the question is, "Does this job help me to get to Heaven?" It may be that God, for HIs reasons, has kicked that element of your job up a notch.

    Rump Scholae are hard. If you know professional singers, you might occasionally hire a couple out of pocket to do things you could formerly do.

    A talk with Father seems indicated, though you might want to wait for clarity on that, since such things can go awry.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 491
    He is, at best, passively accepting of the way the music program is set up, and I suspect he would prefer a far less traditional approach. [...]
    I don't feel that I'm building anything with/supported by the priest

    I'd also have a look on the general opinion in the parish (especially the 'VIPs') about your earlier achievements - and the recent backlash - in case your pastor addresses the issue of what 'the people' want.

    About the language barrier: Is there any parishioner (liturgy commitee or so) officially involved in music program questions, who could be included in a meeting with pastor?
    In one of my parishes next to all comunication with our Italian pastor (for 5 churches) about music in liturgy goes through her.

    And out of curiosity, is there a covid-related problem with the lack of singers which might resolve itself?
    Over here we have been unable to do any recruitment for almost two years (not that we had anyone interested at all).
    Thanked by 2trentonjconn RedPop4
  • Trenton,
    I lived through an awful transition. The part of your OP that concerns me is
    I regularly find myself agitated during Mass due to the regularity with which grating things happen.

    If you can slog it out for a while so as to not abandon the innocent PiPs, then great. But the point at which you are unable to properly participate (spiritually speaking) is the point at which you need to bow out. You shouldn't keep playing to the peril of your own soul.

    As liturgical abuses mounted at my old job, I found myself screaming bloody murder internally. There were masses where I was so upset I didn't allow myself to receive communion as I couldn't do so in good conscience. It would have been a sacrilege to do so with that anger (and even hate, at times) in my heart.

    If you end up remotely toward this unfortunate end of the spectrum, leave.

    If you're irked, and wish it was better, but can still do your best to keep the ship from capsizing completely, then that's a worthy suffering. Just don't lose your soul over it.
  • .
    Thanked by 1RedPop4
  • I regularly find myself agitated during Mass due to the regularity with which grating things happen.

    I have been there. We have been going through a string of Pastors at my parish (7 priests in nine years). The previous Pastor, who we had for two years, was the typical rainbow stole type, with little regard for the liturgy or rubrics. I often found myself gritting my teeth through the many liturgical abuses and utter nonsense (refusing to use the baptismal font and using a glass salad bowl instead, etc.).

    However, in my case, I'm the 5th generation in my family to be baptized and married in my parish, and the ties run very deep. I couldn't leave. Even with the difficult pastor, the parish was still my home. What I can tell you is, you can go to Mass at two different places. When I needed a break, I went to Mass at the neighboring parish (a very devout priest), and it even became routine in my family to go to Friday evening Mass at that parish (with a then newborn baby btw). That time at daily Mass was the relief we all needed, and it gave me what I needed to push through. Back on Saturday evening/Sunday morning I was back in the choir loft with playing and singing.

    The good thing is, judging by your post, you are fairly young, like me. God willing, you will live to see many other priests come and go at this parish. If you think you can wait it out, the next priest may be better.
  • Sorry to hear of your frustration. Sounds like the parish I left except they borrow the DM from the other parish in town. Fortunately, the pastor has finally been re-assigned by the diocese. For his first few years (former) parishioners were coming to me, complaining to me and asking what to do. I gave them advice which went unheeded (nobody wants to be the bad guy), and he stayed there for 7 1/2 years. As a result, more problems grew. Granted, there were worse problems. Meanwhile, instead of bringing information to the correct parties in the diocese, people were band-aiding and enabling him. The DRE stayed because "they wouldn't have a religious education program if I leave." But that allows the situation to stay the same.

    My advice is either go to the other parish or give him the chance to raise the bar. You've done your part; he has the choice. You put this in God's hands and hopefully he will follow the Holy Spirit. Either way, you can then have peace of mind knowing you did try your best. May God bless you in your decision and your ministry! +
    Thanked by 2trentonjconn Elmar
  • Jani
    Posts: 441
    I have nothing to offer here, but I’m sorry for your struggles.
    Thanked by 1trentonjconn
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,578
    Well the Bible tells us "not to cast pearls before swine" and to "shake off the dust for your shoes..."

    The thought of leaving all that was built behind and letting it fall to pieces is heart breaking,

    Well if I make a door, or a chair it is just a door or chair. (I once trained as a joiner) St. Thomas Aquinas likens these to chaff, the wood will be eaten by the worm, it will return to dust.
    Now if I make a door for a church or a chair for the sanctuary it has another value, this value is gold or silver it will remain with us. These works will be part of the balance to determine our place for eternity. The church may be demolished the chair may break, but the value of that work will remain forever.
    I have posted my music programme, but such things do not last. People come and go tastes change, but the effort that we put into the works is valuable, and that is the gold that we should hoard, that cannot be stolen by the thief.
  • Can you do both, or are the Masses timed in such a manner that it conflicts and would require the ability to bi-locate to attend both?
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  • Mass is timed in such a way that I would not be able to attend both.
  • jcr
    Posts: 118
    In sixty years of music work in churches and church related institutions I have never been asked to raise the bar as far as the musical or liturgical practices of the church were concerned. There have been many times when I was pressured in a variety of ways to lower the bar. In pretty much every place where I or I and my wife have worked, we were able to improve things and people got excited about how they sounded and the music they were able to do. We also learned that not long after we left most of them could not remember any of what was accomplished.

    I had a couple of wise high school choral directors and I was given good advice by them regarding things I didn't think were important at the time, but which helped preserve my sanity on a number of occasions. One of those pearls of wisdom was to never hold an ambition for a student or a situation that is loftier than they hold for themselves. This can help avoid a lifetime of disillusionment.

    What happens in a program while you are there will have a very temporal impact. Be prepared to have some sorrow, but always remember that they must live with the program that follows and it ceases to be your problem no matter how much you love those people or the accomplishments you may have caused together.

    Always remember what we read in this Sunday's readings in I Corinthians. Nothing we do in our labors for God will be in vain.

    If you leave, let it go. If you stay, stay for the right reasons (it could be where the Lord wants you) and give it your prayerful and musical best.
  • Some advice I have gleaned from musicians in Protestant/evangelical churches: unless it is impossible to belong elsewhere, do not attempt to be a church-member in place where you are an employee. As an employee, you do not have the same right to spiritual care that a regular member (parishoner) had.
  • That seems utter poppycock, to be honest.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 491
    While I agree with this qualification applied to the 'right to spiritual care' thing, being employed by your own parish does lead to your having the same person as employer and as pastor, which is a tricky situation (as often discussed elswhere in this forum) especially when it comes to pastoral care beyond liturgy and eucharist.
  • I don’t disagree with that, Elmar. There’s no doubt that having your boss as your pastor changes the dynamic, but it certainly doesn’t mean that you’re not entitled to pastoral care. I suppose I am somewhat shielded in this regard as we have two full-time priests at our parish, so I have regular access to a priest who is not my boss. Although I should state that my previous job I absolutely adored my pastor. He was the type of priest to wor his cassock, and his face lit up like a Christmas tree one day when I asked him if he could hear my confession. With total earnestness and JOY, he immediately dropped what he was doing and we walked straight to the confessional. That was early on in our relationship, and we had a wonderful working relationship for over 2 1/2 years after that.
    Thanked by 2Elmar RedPop4
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,277
    I remember the head sacristan at Westminster Cathedral saying that he was unable to fulfill his Sunday obligation at the Cathedral, because he could not detach himself from the role of stage manager where he was ultimately responsible. Maybe it just reflected his approach to the job (for which he was a member of Equity).
  • Steve QSteve Q
    Posts: 118
    One of those pearls of wisdom was to never hold an ambition for a student or a situation that is loftier than they hold for themselves.

    I am not sure I could accept such a maxim. It seems to be too pessimistic a view for me.

    It takes courage and leadership to help a community rise above its own low ambitions. Often their bar is set low because of their past experiences. They may simply not know any better. If you can show them the possibilities, they may realize that there are better ways and begin to want (and eventually expect) more.

    In my own life, if I did not have teachers and mentors (and yes, choir directors) that had higher ambitions for me than I had for myself, I never would have achieved at the levels I have. I am forever grateful for them.

    Sure there will be disappointments and sleepless nights. There will be times that you just have to shake the dust off your feet - and that can be heartbreaking. But I like to think that the successes, even if relatively few, are worth the effort. Even in our failures, there is hope that some people will be positively influenced and carry that with them in the future. I don't want to look back on a tough situation and just say that it is no longer my problem. I prefer to leave a positive legacy. You never know whose lives may have been touched by the work you do, even if the community as a whole does not accept you. As for me then, I will ALWAYS hold an ambition for a student or for a community I serve that is loftier than they hold for themselves. I will set the bar high - and I will do my best to lead them there.

    There is hope - otherwise most of us probably would not even be on this forum. Did the Apostles believe they could achieve all that they did before they met Jesus and later received the Holy Spirit? Trust in Jesus. Pray for the Holy Spirit to come. Be not afraid.
  • jcr
    Posts: 118
    I can't say that I have been able to actually follow the advice of my sagacious teachers in every case. However, it is a good idea to avoid placing too much stock in the eventual success of someone else. If you are suggesting that we raise their horizons and show them that there is more than they are achieving, but that with a bit more effort and imagination there is more to be had, I agree wholeheartedly. There are so many things that go into the success of a musician, in particular, that one never knows what the future may hold for anyone. One should, of course, give his best to any situation or individual. I am really not a pessimist and I won't claim to be a realist either since that is often the refuge of the "cop out". Every situation must be evaluated on its merits or lack of them. When it comes to the ability to know when to be cautious in this matter I can only say that I have never been very good at it, but open eyes and the clarity that comes from as much objectivity as possible is just good practice.
    Thanked by 2Steve Q Elmar
  • Steve QSteve Q
    Posts: 118
    jcr - Your approach is quite sensible and prudent, clearly formed through the lessons of life experiences. Much appreciated. I was only reacting with an alternative view to the advice from the teachers you cited.

    Thanks for the inspiring reference to 1 Corinthians - certainly words to live by.

    I'm not sure I was any help to the OP, although I can definitely sympathize with that situation and offer prayers for a good resolution for all.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • jcr
    Posts: 118
    Thanks for your input. I agree that in actual practice one will find great difficulty in not getting a bit excited by apparent possibilities. No teacher or music leader worth anything will fail to experience this in any number of instances; and, as i said above, I'm probably no better at perfect objectivity in such instances than anyone else. Perhaps there are other equally helpful principles that may mitigate what may seem harsh in this particular one.
    One might be that there comes a time when a problem is no longer yours and the wisdom to recognize this when it comes should be sought assiduously.

    An old friend of mine used to say that if you're leaving, it's time were were gone already.

    Like you, I'm not sure how helpful anything I might offer might be. Such situations are difficult and it would seem that knowing how to weigh all the factors is a real challenge.
  • trentonjconn
    Posts: 450
    Revisiting this thread to say that I ended up giving my notice shortly after Easter and ending my service after Corpus Christi. It was a decision undertaken with much prayer and deliberation, but one which has already been spiritually beneficial for me and also for my family. There was no attempt by my employer to find a replacement and transition seemlessly, which means that the parish is essentially without music and that most of what I built will quickly crumble, which is sad. However, I'm very happy at the little ordinariate parish which I defected to.